A Working Holiday Visa is a great way to travel Canada for an extended period of time without having to win the lottery first. While you are usually allowed to work in exchange for food and accommodation with any visa, a Working Holiday Visa permits you to do (almost) any job and receive a regular salary.
Here is what you have to do to get a Working Holiday Visa for Canada:
Step 1: Checking Eligibility
First of all, you need to check to see whether you are eligible. This mainly depends on your country of residence and your age. So head over to the getting started section of the Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) website and click on “Check your eligibility”. Make sure to select “IEC – Travel and Work” at the top and choose whatever applies to you for the rest of the questions.
Once you have completed the questionnaire, you should be presented with a result that hopefully looks like this:
After clicking on “Continue”, you will be given a personal reference code that you should write down, as it is needed for the next step.
Step 2: Entering the IEC Pool
Before you can start the application for a work permit, you first need to enter the International Experience Canada pool and wait for an invitation to apply. To do so, you need to create an account. Click on “Continue to GCKey”, then click on “Sign Up” and enter the requested information. Once your account has been created and you are logged in, click on the button “International Experience Canada (IEC)” and enter your previously acquired personal reference key. You will be asked to provide further information.
When all forms have been completed, it should look like this:
You are now given the option to submit the application. Before you do so, however, double-check everything as you will not be able to make any changes afterwards. Especially the info about your passport needs to be 100% correct. Your application will now be reviewed and if everything checks out, you will be added to the IEC pool, which means you now have a chance to receive an invitation to apply for the actual work permit. If and when you receive such an invitation is solely up to the government officials and at this point you can only wait. In my case it took four weeks until I received an invitation.
It should be noted that if you do receive an invitation, you only have 10 days to accept it and, once accepted, another 20 days to submit the application. You are required to provide a variety of documents during the process. Some of these documents, e.g. police certificate, take quite some time to acquire and may need to be translated into English or French. I suggest you start gathering them as soon as you have been added to the IEC pool. A list of documents you may be asked to provide can be found here.
Step 3: Applying for the Work Permit
If you were lucky enough to receive an invitation, you can now apply for the work permit. The process starts by revisiting the forms that you filled out to enter the IEC pool during step two and which now have additional questions. Previously entered information can no longer be changed. Missing or incomplete information will most likely lead to an immediate rejection of your application. Make sure to check everything thoroughly and do not make any false claims or statements.
The following question in particular can be a pitfall: “Have you ever committed, been arrested for, been charged with or convicted of any criminal offence in any country/territory?”
Canada is extremely strict when it comes to admitting foreigners with a criminal record. Generally speaking, if you have ever been convicted of a crime you will be considered criminally inadmissible and denied entry.
Having said that, answering this question with “yes” does not mean your application will automatically be declined. It all depends on the individual situation and if you are deemed rehabilitated. Withholding such information, on the other hand, will definitely get you rejected if the officials find out, which they probably will. I therefore highly suggest you answer this part honestly and provide a detailed explanation rather than taking any chances. I myself have been charged with a DUI in the past – something that is considered a serious offence in Canada – and my application was approved nevertheless.
I would also like to note that the question is to be taken literally. Having “been charged with” means exactly that. It does not matter whether you were acquitted or if the charge was unjustified to begin with. If you have ever been summoned to court and charged with something, you should mention it here so you do not end up like this unfortunate actor who was declined a work permit for not disclosing this very information.
Upon completing the questionnaire you can proceed to provide the required documents. This may vary from applicant to applicant, but will likely be the same for most people. All documents must be supplied digitally, which means you need access to a scanner or at least a proper camera. Here is the list of documents that I was asked to upload:
Make sure to read the instructions for each of the requested documents, as this will tell you the requirements you need to meet. You can only select a single file when uploading, which means everything that is more than one page needs to be combined into a PDF.
Family Information Form: Simply download and fill out the supplied document. It was not entirely clear if you just need to type your name into the signature fields or if a handwritten signature was required. To be on the safe side, I printed the PDF, signed it by hand and then scanned it.
Police Certificates: According to the CIC, you need to include a certified translation for every document not in English or French. I decided to only upload the certificate in the original language and see how they would respond. It was eventually accepted without a translation, but I might have been just lucky.
CV/résumé: This does not need to be fancy. You can simply copy the example and replace the information with your own.
Digital photo: The photo must meet the requirements listed in this brochure. I used one of those photo booths you can find in places that issue passports or driver’s licenses, as they usually have the same requirements. I then scanned the photo at 600 dpi.
Court record/police report: This is only required if you answered the question about previous convictions with “yes” and is probably something that needs a certified translation. However, because my conviction had been more than 10 years ago, I was unable to get any court records or police reports and that is exactly what I told the CIC. I wrote a short letter stating that these documents are no longer obtainable, saved it as PDF and uploaded it.
Passport: Make sure to scan all pages that have any information or stamps on them. As you can see, they asked me for a replacement because I only scanned the page with the photo and personal information at first.
When you are done uploading all the documents, you should double-check everything one last time and then submit the application. A valid credit card is required to pay the fees, which slightly vary each year and will be CAD $226 for 2017. All that is left to do now is wait for a government official to review your application and hopefully approve it. I received my approval two days after I submitted the application.
A document will be provided to you once you have been approved. This document needs to be printed and given to the officer at the port of entry. The officer may also request to see additional documentation, such as travel insurance, proof of means of financial support and so on. Once everything checks out, your work permit will be issued and inserted into your passport.
Congratulations! You are now able to travel and work in Canada for the next 12 months.
Disclaimer: I do not work for the CIC or have any affiliation with them. All information provided is based on my own experience of going through the application process. I cannot guarantee that anything I wrote is correct or has not changed in the meantime.